India v South Africa, 1st Test, Mohali, 3rd day November 7, 2015

Wrong decisions from batsmen cost South Africa - Amla

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'Disappointing we didn't apply ourselves better' - Amla

It was not the surface or the spin but errors in decision-making and incorrect execution which, Hashim Amla explained, caused his first defeat as Test captain. South Africa were bowled out for under 200 on a slow surface twice; Amla believes they could have scored more runs had they shown better skills.

"We could have applied ourselves better," Amla said. "There were decisions we made while we were batting that were not the right decisions."

Poor shot selection cost Dean Elgar his wicket in both innings but the rest of South Africa's line-up were guilty of misreading the turn or lack thereof. Faf du Plessis was dismissed by a straight delivery in both innings, Amla left a straight ball in the second innings and AB de Villiers played on to a straight ball.

Overall, South Africa looked uncertain in their approach, even after they discussed being wary of both turn and the absence of it. "The chat we had was that the ball's not turning that much, actually," Amla said. "There were quite a few dismissals from both teams from a lack of turn rather than excessive turn."

His own dismissal in the second innings was a case in point. In the post-match television interview, he called his decision to leave the ball a "brainfreeze", and by the time the press conference came had decided he would have been far better off offering a shot. "It's a matter of playing the ball or not playing the ball. If I'd played it I probably would have hit it in the middle of the bat."

Hindsight, though, offered little consolation.

In the end, South Africa have been left with a lot of what-ifs over their batting, after their bowlers gave them the chance to pull off an upset. Amla thought 200 was "chaseable", although he would have preferred a target in the region of 160. Still, Amla believed his team could get there and even adjusted their game plan for the fourth innings.

Vernon Philander was promoted to open the batting, to provide a solid start against spin and shield the specialist batsmen for later on, when South Africa hoped the target would be within reach. "We thought we would mix it up and get a right-hander up front. Vernon has one of the most solid techniques and he has done a great job for us at No. 7, including against the new ball," Amla said. "It was a good idea if Ashwin was going to bowl. It would have panned out well for us the way Stiaan batted with Dale to come."

That Dale Steyn batted at all is a good sign for South Africa, after he was unable to bowl in the second innings having sustained a groin strain earlier in the match. Importantly for South Africa, they were able to be incisive even without a contribution from Steyn, who also went wicketless in the first innings. But, even though it did not look as though South Africa missed him, Amla said they did. "Not having Dale is a difficult one, because he is the best fast bowler in the world and in the subcontinent the most successful fast bowler," Amla said. "It is a blow not to have had Dale in the last innings, and we're certainly missing Morne Morkel."

Morkel sat out the Mohali Test after he failed a late fitness following a quad injury, but Amla is optimistic both Steyn and Morkel, and maybe even JP Duminy, who has had stitches removed from a cut on his hand, will be able to play in Bangalore. "Hopefully in the next Test JP might be fit and a few dynamics might change for our team. Dale might be fit to bowl again too."

Duminy would add depth to the batting and another option with the ball, although South Africa can be proud of the way some of their lesser bowling lights shone in this Test. Their errors with the bat aside, their spinners kept themselves in the game for three innings in entirely foreign conditions, something that earned the captain's praise.

"Throughout this Test match, even though it was such a short Test match, we managed to hold our own right into the last innings," Amla said. "They could have got away from us with about 250 or 300 in the last innings, and that would have been exceptionally difficult. The way we bowled and applied ourselves in the field was very good."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent